By, Tom Baldino
As the president of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation, I am heavily immersed in the world of music, but in a one-week span, it got a little other worldly, even for me. It started with the Bucks County Blues Festival, followed by Bands on the Beach with Billy Hector–nothing too unusual there. After a day off, the fun began on Tuesday. As a grant recipient from Ocean First Bank, I, along with our Treasurer, Emil Katterman, was invited to a breakfast with several hundred other not-for-profit corporations at Eagle Oaks C.C. in Farmingdale. There we met our counterparts for the first time since the pandemic and listened to selected speakers talk about the good things they are doing in the community. Ex-Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno, sat at our table and having known her from my past association with Holiday Express and her brother-in-law, musician Pat, we had a pleasant conversation.
After that it was on to Forked River to meet JSJBF member Joe Weisbrod, for a trip to the Lizzie Rose Pavilion in the Pines to see blues guitar virtuoso Tinsley Ellis. When we arrived, we were greeted by promoter Lou Reichert and JSJBF ex-president Eddie Cooper. It seems Eddie has a camper and had leased a spot at this campground last year, not knowing Lou had contracted to move his Lizzie Rose Music Room concerts outdoors due to the pandemic. As a resident, the shows are part of the entertainment there! Tinsley put on a ninety-minute set of music spanning his forty-plus year career, but what was most fascinating to me was seeing him play a guitar I had never seen played in my sixty plus years of concert going, a Gibson Moderne. This guitar was developed in 1957, along with the Explorer and its much more well-known prototype, the Flying V, but was not put into production until 1982-83 and 2012. These are very rare, and the 1957 prototype is worth well in excess of a quarter million dollars and is the “holy grail” of collectible guitars. I didn’t get to ask, but I’m sure it was one of the reissues, which were very limited production and valuable.
That was fun, but the next night board member Gary Neuwirth and I traveled to the Union County PAC to see the legendary Taj Mahal. We arrived at the Union County PAC where we were to meet the staff who were to usher us in to set up a membership table in the lobby. The doors were locked and we couldn’t see anyone inside. A fellow walking by asked if we knew where he could get some cigarettes. I didn’t know, but he said he was the new member of the band, pedal steel player Bobby Ingano from Hawaii. He did tell us to go around the building where security let us in. As we were waiting, I looked to my right and Taj was sitting in a dressing room alone, having just finished his dinner. I walked in, introduced myself, and mentioned our mutual friend, JSJBF member Sharon Lasher. Then Gary and I proceeded to have a nice conversation with him and have the pictures to prove it!
We then set up shop in the lobby and saw many familiar faces and others who listened to our information on the JSJBF. Many took the handouts and business cards and some used their phones to get the QR code link to our website. One of our band members, Eliza Neals, stopped by and gave us a copy of her new CD, “Badder To The Bone,” which I will review in a later article. I hope to get her on a 2023 gig so our membership can hear live this dynamic singer and her band. All the while we listened to the wonderful music coming from the stage and I couldn’t help but think that you can’t listen to Taj Mahal without a smile on your face! When the steel guitar was being featured, I told Gary my favorite tune was Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” He wasn’t sure so I hummed a few bars and wouldn’t you know it, that was the next song they played! His outstanding and multi-talented band also included Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith on percussion.
We closed up shop shortly after that and I started mentally preparing myself for the next adventure, the Sourland Mountains Festival with a show at Il Posto the night before, featuring our own Sharon Lasher & the Flashers. What a week–more stories to follow!